Posted by: Agence Tunis Afrique Presse

The construction works of the seawater desalination plant in Zarat (Gabes) will start by the end of 2018 and the station will be commissioned at the beginning of 2021, announced CEO of the National Water Distribution Utility (SONEDE) Mesbah Helali.

Speaking Tuesday at the signing ceremony of an agreement to implement the financing loan agreement (€82 million) signed between Tunisia and the German Development Bank (KFW) on November 29, 2016, he added that the overall cost of the project is estimated at 231.6 million dinars (€96.5 million) with the participation of Tunisia amounting to €14.5 million.

SONEDE has launched, over the last ten years a project to improve the quality of water in southern Tunisia, he said.

The project consists of reducing salinity to a rate of 1.5 grams per liter, compared to more than 2 grams in all regions and localities where the population is over 4,000 inhabitants.

This project has two phases. The first phase, involving the construction of 10 small water desalination plants, was already carried out with a budget of 40 million dinars and the stations were put into service, including stations in the governorates of Medenine, Kebili, Tozeur, Tataouine where an improvement of the water was observed.

The second phase of this project was initiated in 2017 and will be carried out over a period of 3 to 4 years.

It involves installing 6 desalination plants in southern Tunisia, including Sidi Bouzid, Gafsa, Tozeur, Kebili and Medenine.

For his part, Minister of Development, Investment and International Cooperation, Zied Laadhari stressed that this project that will be implemented by SONEDE will cover the drinking water needs of 1.145 million inhabitants of the governorates of Gabes, Medenine and Tataouine, by 2035.

It will also address water scarcity through desalination of seawater and mitigate over-exploitation of groundwater, he pointed out.

He added that the main components of the project are the establishment of a desalination plant, with a capacity of 50,000 m3 / day, (which capacity could be increased to 100,000 m3 / day by 2027), 3 water storage tanks with a total capacity of 15,000 m3 and a pumping station for desalinated water …

Simone Cremer, officer in charge of water projects at KFW, said the cost of projects that will be implemented in cooperation with SONEDE in the field of drinking water amounts to € 1 billion.

The goal is to cope with the water scarcity in southern Tunisia, she said, pointing out that Tunisia is at the top of the list of countries affected by water scarcity as it has only about 450 cubic meters / day / per capita, while 1000 cubic meters / day / inhabitant is a quantity considered to be a situation of scarcity.

The agreement was initialed by Development, Investment and International Cooperation Minister Zied Ladhari, KFW’s Tunis office director Sven Neunsinger and SONEDE CEO Mesbah Helali.